Authors: Joseph Flynn
The Next President [042-4.4]
By: Joseph Flynn
Just in time for the presidential election season comes this nonstop thriller about the 2004 campaign. J. D. Cade was trained as an assassin for a covert Army unit in Vietnam. Upon his return from the war, he used that training to put a subtle but fatal end to a family feud. Thirty-four years later, he finds himself being blackmailed in order to force his cooperation in a plot to assassinate Franklin Delano Rawley, the first African American presidential nominee. Flynn is an excellent storyteller with a well-tuned ear for dialogue and a gift for creating memorable characters placed in believable settings. The opening scene, in which Cade methodically prepares to shoot Rawley in Chicago’s Grant Park during a Labor Day rally, grabs the reader by the lapels, and Flynn doesn’t let go until after the climax, during a debate in the Hollywood Bowl. Reminiscent of the finest political potboilers of the 1950s and 1960s, The Next President bears favorable comparison to such classics as The Best Man , Advise and Consent , and The Manchurian Candidate
also BY joseph flynn
Digger The Concrete Inquisition The Next
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A Bantam Book / June 2000
All rights reserved.
Copyright 2000 by Joseph Flynn.
Book design by Casey HamfJton.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Flynn, Joseph.
The next president Joseph Flynn.
1. Presidents—United States—Election—Fiction. 2. Afro-American politicians—Fiction. 3. Conspiracies—Fiction. 4. Extortion—Fiction.
PS3556.L872 N49 2000
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
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This book is dedicated to my brothers and sisters, Tim, Anne, Noon, Deb, and Kev, and to Doug and Vie, who are close enough for rock ‘n roll.
Writing this book would not have been possible without the help of:
Catherine and Caitie, who put a smile on my face every morning, come rain or shine.
Joseph T. Flynn, Martha Flynn, and Mary Coates, my favorite philanthropists.
Mike Daly, state director for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL); Anne Dougherty and Marlene Carls, senatorial staffers; Vickie Karten, California friend and graphic designer; Laura Hammond, RN, MSN.
David Vigliano, stalwart agent, who was there every time I needed him.
Beth de Guzman and Nita Taublib, my editors, who never called off the search and in the end brought this story safely home.
I thank you all.
This story makes reference to historical events, well-known institutions, and actual places… but it takes literary license with many of them.
For example, the Phoenix Program was a genuine CIA operation, and the U.S. Army’s 1st Logistical Command is also real, with the responsibilities mentioned in the story. However, the PANIC unit, all its personnel, and its activities are purely fictional. Likewise, the Treasury Department has no Departmental Internal Management and Oversight unit.
The James C. Petrillo Music Shell was a Chicago landmark for many years, but long before 2004, when I have Del Rawley about to speak there, it will have been replaced by a new and differently sited band shell. This and other liberties have been taken so as not to give the wrong ideas to impressionable minds.
Also, the McLellan M-100 sniper rifle has not yet—thank God—been invented.
The current generation of such weapons is fearsome enough.
J. D. Cade thought he’d never have to kill anyone again. He’d come home to southern Illinois from the war at age twenty having killed five men. Four under orders, one on his own. To his mind, that was more than enough to last him a lifetime, but that was before he heard of Alvy McCray. Alvy was someone who, as Texans liked to put it, needed killing. Needed it right away.
At six feet two and 175 pounds, J. D. was tall and rangy. His sandy brown hair hadn’t been cut during his last six weeks in the army and was already long enough not to mark him as a soldier. His eyes were a clear pale blue and his face was unlined and unblemished, but he’d always had a self-possessed air about him that made people trust in his abilities, and made it unlikely anyone would ever guess he had ten thousand dollars in stolen cash stuffed in the bottom of his duffel bag.
J. D. knew the McCray name, of course. The Cades of Illinois and the McCrays of Kentucky had engaged in a blood feud from the mid-nineteenth century to the outbreak of World War II. That conflict had damped the fires of the feud by killing off dozens of Cades and McCrays, and leaving the survivors with their fill of death.
Now, in the wake of a far less popular war, up popped this ex-marine Alvy McCray, who’d come home and was doing his damnedest to start the hostilities all over again. Alvy had been hitting even7 bar, tavern, and roadhouse in southern Illinois where a Cade might take a drink and
whipping the ass off every last one he found. J. D.‘s cousin Bell had nearly been killed, and he lay in the hospital with his recovery still uncertain.
Alvy was described as a big, mean, rawboned sonofabitch, but the outcomes of the attacks were predetermined by the fact that he had begun each one with a sucker punch. With his victim at his feet, he would sneer, “I’m Alvy McCray, and your sorry Cade ass is mine anytime I want it.” Then he’d jump in his pickup truck and speed back across the Ohio River to Kentucky before the cops could arrive.
When the authorities in Kentucky received inquiries from their counterparts in Illinois, they replied that as far as they knew, Alvy McCray was a law abiding young man, and for every time Alvy was alleged to have battered a Cade in Illinois, his father and wife always swore that he was right at home on the family farm outside of Paducah.
The credibility of these alibis was assisted in no small measure by the fact that many of the local cops were also named McCray. So if the McCray family was not actually cheering Alvy on, they were at least tolerating his assaults on the Cades as not particularly troubling.
J. D.‘s second night home, he drove down to Kentucky. The sun was disappearing as he found the dirt road where the McCray farm was located. As he drove past, he heard shouts and screams coming from a small weathered farmhouse. It sounded to him like some sonofabitch was beating up a woman. Alvy apparently liked to throw a punch at home, too.
J. D. drove a half mile past the house, backed his car into a stand of trees on the opposite side of the road, and waited for the moon to rise. His plan was to reconnoiter. He wanted to get a look at Alvy before he had to deal with him at close range. But while J. D. was still in the car, he saw a figure carrying a rifle heading his way.
The man was moving in a crouch, and the outline of the weapon in his hands was disturbingly familiar. It was either an M-16 or its civilian cousin, the AR-15. Knowing that Alvy liked to get in the first punch, J. D. was certain he’d like to get in the first shot, too. But fifty meters short of the stand of trees where J. D. waited, the rifleman executed a left turn and moved away from him. He hadn’t seen J. D.‘s car at all.
Puzzled, J. D. eased out of the car and stole down the road. When he reached the point where Alvy had turned left, he realized that he was at the property line of the McCray farm. It came to him then: The dumb fuck was patrolling his perimeter. On a Kentucky farm. Scary.
J. D. looked at the farmhouse in the distance. A single light burned in a second-floor window. He could imagine how terrified Alvy’s wife
must be, having to put up with a violent loon like him. Why the fuck didn’t she just wait until he fell asleep one night and shoot him? That’d save… save every body else the trouble. A grim smile formed on J. D.‘s lips.
To test his assumption that Alvy was a time bomb with a burning fuse, J. D. crept along unnoticed behind him. He waited until he had a large oak to duck behind and a clear path of retreat and then he chucked a stone at Alvy. It caught him squarely on the back of his white walled head. A man with the least bit of intelligence might have taken the pelting as a sign that some body didn’t like him and could just as easily have killed him.
Alvy’s response was to turn and empty his clip.
From that point on, the first part of J. D.‘s plan was simplicity: He had to focus all of Alvy’s anger on him. Which meant all the other Cades had to lie low. Some of the older men thought this was a burden J. D. shouldn’t have to bear by himself until he described how it had felt to have a volley of Alvy’s automatic-weapon fire go blazing past his head.
Just in case the stoning Alvy had suffered provoked him into coming armed on his next foray into Cade country, J. D. stuck his late father’s army45 into the pocket of his field jacket.
Then he set up shop in a roadhouse called the Dew Drop Inn that sat next to state Highway 146 just outside the little town of Golconda. That was where Alvy McCray had begun his rampage by fracturing the jaw ofDashiel Cade. It took J. D. five nights of nursing beers before Alvy finally showed up.
J. D. didn’t see Alvy walk through the door, but he knew trouble was on the way when the bartender’s mouth fell open. J. D. felt as much as saw people move away from him. He discreetly slipped the .45 out of his pocket the gun shielded from Alvy by his body and held it close to his leg. He continued to sip beer from the bottle in his left hand and didn’t look around.
He picked up Alvy’s reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Alvy leaned against the bar three feet away from J. D. and took a particular interest in the name on J. D.‘s field jacket.
“You a real Cade?” Alvy asked him.
“Or just some college pussy bought some army pussy’s jacket?”
J. D. turned his head to face Alvy.
“Yeah, I’m a Cade. J. D. Cade. And from the way those beady fucking eyes of yours are set an eighth of an inch apart, my guess is you’re a McCray. So what’re you doing over here in Illinois when you could be back home fucking your sister?”
Alvy cocked his fist, but before he could throw the first punch, J. D. had rammed the .45 into his nose. Cartilage shattered, blood gushed,
and Alvy went reeling. But he took the fact that J. D. hadn’t shot him dead immediately as an invitation to regroup and charge. Which he lowered his head and did.
J. D. stepped aside and backhanded him viciously across the side of his face with the .45. On the rebound, Alvy’s head slammed into the edge of the bar and he landed flat on his back. When Alvy’s eyes regained focus, he was staring straight up the barrel of J. D.‘s weapon.
“That was for my cousin Ben,” J. D. told him coolly, “and for all the other members of my family you sucker-punched. Think of it as evening up the score. But if you ever come back this way, it’s open season on you. You have the brains to understand that?”
J. D. kept his gun on Alvy as he got to his feet and backed out the door.
He could tell from the dumb, sullen rage in the cocksucker’s eyes he hadn’t had enough. He’d be back.
So he told him, “Like I said, settle your affairs before you come this way again.”
Alvy returned two weeks later, storming into the Dew Drop Inn with his AR-15 in his hands. Every last drinker in the roadhouse, and the bartender, ran out the back door. ButAlvy’d had time to see that J. D. Cade hadn’t been among them. He was about to stomp back outside and find some Cade to kill when the public phone rang.
The call could have been from anybody for anybody, but standing there alone in the roadhouse, Alvy knew who was calling and knew it was for him.
When he picked up the receiver he heard J. D. Cade’s voice, and it was full of mocking laughter.
“You up there in Golconda, Alvy? Well, I’m not very far away. Just down on a little farm outside of Paducah. Found a woman here who just loves a man who’ll fuck her without beating her up first. What do you think about that, Alvy?”
Alvy ran to his Ford pickup and jammed the key in the ignition. His tires smoked as he took off south on Highway 146. The roar of blood in his ears drowned out the growl of the truck’s engine as he hit sixty on a narrow ribbon of asphalt where the posted limit was forty-five.
The blacktop entered the Shawnee National Forest. Even though the trees wore thick new mantles of spring green leaves, the setting sun sent shafts of light poking through the branches that made Alvy squint. But he kept the gas pedal floored even when the pavement rose and dipped and curved. More than once he had to wrestle the pickup back onto the asphalt.